On becoming a PRIA Fellow

I’m a Fellow of the PR Institute of Australia!

Thank you to the person (or persons) who nominated me.

This is an honour in the public relations industry and means I join sixteen others who have been elevated to the status of Fellow in South Australia, six of them women. I’m in excellent company amongst these senior PR practitioners and count many of them as friends.

Fellows announcement on big screen

I normally write about and promote clients. It’s time to talk about me!

I’ve been working in comms for more than twenty years and have regularly changed career tack to pursue roles that interested me. That means I’ve worked as a press secretary, country journalist, government journalist, website manager, digital content manager, social media consultant and PR consultant.

Fond memories: (bear with me as this sounds like a retirement speech)

  • Working in Parliament House in Canberra during sitting weeks – long hours, researching and writing speeches, attending dinners including one with the US Ambassador and a staff Christmas party where John Howard sung an impromptu song while someone played the piano
  • Helping relaunch southaustralia.com back in the heady days of gigantic website projects – big budgets, interstate agencies, teams travelling around SA to become immersed in our tourism gems before writing about them. I swam with the sea lions at Baird Bay, flew over Wilpena Pound, stayed in a houseboat on the Murray, had lunch at the Prairie Hotel and too many other highlights to mention without sounding like I’m crowing
  • Stepping into the darkroom at the Whyalla News and rolling my own film to take photographs, when journalism was already beginning to shed and combine jobs to save money
  • ‘Tinkering’ with Facebook, YouTube and Twitter in the early days of corporate social media, and placing South Australia onto those channels; teaching myself about social media platforms and learning from others in Adelaide via a Twitter meet-up network called SocAdl
  • The thrill of setting up my own business and deciding – with the help of old friends – that my nickname Prakky would be my trading name. Operating from a laptop on my dining table, eventually landing media gigs as a social media commentator including a weekly spot on ABC radio (for two years) and regular television appearances
  • Discovering (while leafing through old PRIA SA documents) that the 60th anniversary of PRIA SA was approaching, and staging a happy and successful gala dinner with the rest of the PRIA SA Council

I’m proud of a lot of the work I’ve done, but I’ve also made silly mistakes and gaffes. When working as a media monitor in the Premier’s office, he strolled into the radio room and asked me what the Opposition Leader had just said on-air. Being heartily sick of the political spiels by then, I shrugged and said: ‘Same old stuff he’s always saying’. Luckily for me, the Premier’s eyes simply boggled at my reply and I was not asked exactly what I thought my role was …

I achieved great media coverage for MAC and was often their media spokesperson on-air, however I always seems to tangle with pull-up banners. At the first presser I attended – a joint affair with SAPOL – someone had left the doors wide open and a breeze was threatening to knock the banners over during the TV interviews taking place. Sensibly, I thought, I tugged at the door to close it. It creaked long and loudly, diverting attention from the presser … During another MAC presser, I was tasked with introducing the two speakers to the media. There was a pull-up banner beside me, and I decided to adjust it gently as I began speaking … it wobbled and started to fall down, so I had to hold onto it while I finished my opening remarks.

PRIA Fellows letter to Michelle Prak

I love being in PR.

Not everyone understands PR, in fact it’s often misunderstood and misrepresented. But that’s not unique to the industry – many professions suffer the same problem.

That’s partly why I’ve been involved in the PRIA for so long, and why I put in the time and effort to be state president for three years. I believe the profession is an important one, its standards need to be upheld and shared, and there’s much we can do to learn from and support each other.

The PR industry is sometimes the subject of derision, especially when aligned with ‘spin doctors’. But consider what’s happening in Australia right now. There are catastrophic bushfires tearing along the east coast – and each emergency agency has communications staff who are working hard to inform the community of the dangers. The nonprofits who want to save native animals, conserve the environment, lobby the government for more action on climate change – they all have communication imperatives and strategies. It’s not ‘evil’ to craft a PR strategy to support your goals.

Thank you taking the time to read this. Thanks to all my previous employers, colleagues and clients for being part of my career so far.

The news of my elevation to Fellow was formally announced at the national Golden Target Awards in Melbourne last night and I look forward to celebrating locally with SA Fellows and PRIA SA soon.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Gary says:

    Congratulations on being awarded Fellowship.

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